10 Things I wish I knew when I was 20

1. Education is expensive but potentially a worthy investment if you know what you want in life. A lot of students stumble into universities and pick a degree based on limited knowledge and experience. Picking a degree like picking a tattoo design on a whim off the wall of a tattoo parlor sounds fun but you may regret it not long after. Keep this in mind: having an education is valuable whether you use your degree or not. There are many benefits to the classroom outside of whether or not you land the job you had in mind—interpersonal skills, discipline, networking, relationships, etc.

2. You need a coach. I’ve had different coaches at different seasons of my life and have been a coach as well. The same people won’t be in your life forever and no one person can show you everything you need to know. Consider meeting with a coach for a season of life for one of the following examples: money, faith, exercise/physical activity, relationships, etc. Being a coach is rewarding as well. Commit to someone a portion of your week (maybe an hour over lunch) consistently. A wise person once said “people are your best investment”, and I couldn’t agree more.

3. Engage People. Granted this does come easy to extroverts but don’t let being shy and standoffish rule your life. This can seem like social skydiving to some but it has its perks. Rejection is an unavoidable pitfall but meeting that one person that changes everything will make you glad you did it. Also, for Christians living on mission, we lost the right to keep the gospel to ourselves. A good friend and coworker of mine said “ministry is an interruption.” I realize this doesn’t come without some mild to moderate levels of social suffering but really what needs to happen is to get over ourselves. Fear is a natural part of facing other humans. Says the wise Erwin McManus, “Courage is not the absence of fear; it is the absence of self.”

4. You were only meant to be exceptional at one thing. Finding that one thing can be found through a good coach, gifts assessments, or an aptitude test but there’s no better teacher than experiments and failures. Don’t be afraid of them either. Assessments like the Myers Briggs and Strengths finder have been valuable tools for me but they have their limitations as well. Seth Godin has a great book called “The Dip” and it’s all about when and when NOT to quit. Here’s a short video about it if you don’t want to read the book.

5. Experiences > purchases. That new car, iPad or pair of shoes will rust, break and fall apart, but experiences will not. Invest in missions, family vacations, dates with your spouse, etc.

6. Reading is non-negotiable if you plan on leading. Start with the Bible and don’t forget the classics and biographies. The world will be perfectly happy in keeping you dumb. Reading good material is your best opportunity to grow as a person. Start here and here.

7. Being clever does not equal to being wise Words are fun. I love the effect they can have on a presentation, writing, or just telling stories in the living room. Being witty is fun too and can make stuffy material come to life but it can morph into just another abuse of power. Being clever can gain you access to a lot of people but can turn you into a jerk or manipulator. Being wise takes experience, humility, and knowing when not to speak.

8. Write Stuff Down. I’ve used Evernote for writing things down but have now switched to Notes on my iPhone and sometimes just a plain old journal. I save projects, lists, messages, reminders, just to name a few. My brain can only save so much before things start to disappear. Don’t misuse your memory by the tragic neglect of writing it down. If you’re Christian and plan on having kids someday, buy a wide margin Bible, use it exclusively to write notes in for a few years until you fill it up, then give it to a child at a significant milestone in their life. It will be a strong faith builder for them to see your journey of faith.

9. Never underestimate the usefulness of having a pen. That is all.

10. Your parents should never have to call you. Call them (and your grandparents, if you still have them!) weekly whether they ever return the favor or not.

I’d love to hear some of what you wished you would have known before the age of 20 in the comments. Thanks for reading!

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